In this way Primrose obtained her first situation, for Mrs. Mortlock was glad to feel her soft young hand, and her gentle and refined tones had an instant and soothing effect on the poor lady’s irritable nerves.
“My dear,” she said, “what with rasping voices, and piping voices, and droning voices, to say nothing of voices that were more like growls than anything else, I felt nearly demented. Yes, Miss Mainwaring, this is a sore affliction that has befallen me, and I knew there was nothing before me but the services of a ‘continual reader,’ for poor Mrs. Dredge, though she did her best, was decidedly thick in her utterance; and Miss Slowcum, oh dear! the affectations of Miss Slowcum were quite beyond me, besides our differing altogether in politics—me holding for Gladstone, and she fairly hating the poor man. You’ll do very well, Miss Mainwaring, and I hope you’ll study your papers well while you’re at home, so that you may know what you are reading about, and read intelligent accordingly. I always like both sides of the question, which was my poor husband’s habit, for he was a very intelligent man, Miss Mainwaring. And then I like my bit of gossip and my Court news. I adore my Queen, Miss Mainwaring, and it is a real bona fide pleasure to learn when and where she drives abroad. You’ll come, please, in the morning, and set to work at your continual reading. Salary, fifteen shillings a week certain. Now, now, you needn’t hesitate at taking what I call a lofty salary, for it always was my way to pay down handsome. There now, that’s settled. Shake hands, dear; good-bye till the morning. Sarah Maria, you needn’t show up no more of the ‘continual readers,’ for I believe I have made a bargain with this young lady.”
“Oh, Miss Primrose!” said poor Poppy, as she showed her out, “I am more than thankful that you are coming here, miss—that’s for my sake, miss, though I’m dreadful afraid you’ll suffer yourself. I’m awful afraid you’ll get muddled in your head, miss, for as to mine, it has swam away long ago. I begin not to know in the least who I am, miss. Poppy, why it ain’t nowhere! only I’m Sarah, with all the other words in the dictionary tacked on to it. I don’t mind it now; they say folks can get accustomed to anything, so I don’t mind being Sarah, and everything else too, only it has a very swimming effect on the head, Miss Primrose. Oh, my darling young lady! do ask Miss Jasmine and Miss Daisy to let me come and see them.”
“Yes, Poppy, you shall come and see us all again, if you will only keep our little secret, for just at present we don’t want the people at home to know where we are; and remember, Poppy dear, that you are always Poppy to us three girls.”
“I’ll hold on to that,” said poor Poppy, “when my head’s fairly reeling. I’ll clutch on to it, and hold firm. Poppy, which means a tare, I am, to my own dear young ladies. Oh dear! oh dear! they’re calling me—it’s Sarah Matilda this time. Good-bye until to-morrow, dear Miss Primrose.”